TBT - (1969) "The 'Soccer War'"

War is madness - violent tribalism to the extreme and sometimes downright ridiculous. Which is also a good description of soccer matches and the fans. In 1969 there was a 100 hour war between Honduras and El salvador - commonly known as the 'Soccer War'..

One of the more interesting people that used to come into our hotel bar at the 'Bahia Lodge' during the early '70's was Martin Duran. Martin was a mining engineer married into a prominent Honduran family from the country's capital - Tegucigalpa. For some reason he moved his family to live on the island of Utila shortly after we opened the island's first hotel.

Martin worked on projects throughout Central America and came to visit and talk with me whenever he was on the island. An intelligent man with a great sense of humor and fine cigars to share. He knew I liked cigars - and joked about the cheap ones I got from the central market on the coast in La Ceiba. Besides being very strong, the cheap cigars I bought had rock gravel and horse hairs in them because the farmers dried the tobacco leaves on the shoulder of the paved highway that ran along the coast. So I was always spitting out the gravel and hairs when smoking my 'puros'.

The cigars Martin brought me were from the Danli provence and were a real treat - mild, a nice even burn, and with a smooth outer leaf. He said the outside of his cigars were smooth because they had been finished by rolling them on the thighs of virgins - while mine were rough looking when finished because they were rolled over the varicose veins of old hags.

The war that broke out between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969 was triggered by a soccer game between the two countries. But of course there were greater issues involved - but history calls it "The Soccer War". Martin told me that at that time his brother-in-law was a colonel in the Honduran military and since Martin's work had taken him to El Salvador quite often the colonel asked Martin to attend a war council meeting at the Presidential Palace when the hostilities first started. So Martin said he showed up at the Palace with his briefcase and was escorted into a room full of government ministers, military officers, and of course the Honduran President was there too.

The Honduran government was desperate for any intel that would help them win the war. Because of Martin's knowledge of vital infrastructures in El Salvador he was asked to make a presentation about what military targets the Honduran air force should be aware of during their missions. So Martin took out his Texaco gas station tourist road map and put it on the war planning display board and proceeded to point out where there was bridges, oil refineries, electrical power stations, etc. Martin said that after his presentation he was profusely thanked and then informed he had to leave so that the generals could proceed with their battle planning. But as he went to put the Texaco road map back into his briefcase, in a somewhat embarrassing moment for everyone, the colonel asked that he leave the road map with them in the war room - implying that the Honduran military had no currant maps of the neighboring country they were fighting - El Salvador!

I told Martin that I heard that a pilot for SAHSA, the national commercial airline company, was a reservist called into the war and flew one of the six Navy Corsairs Honduras got from Uncle Sam - and that they made him an 'Ace' after shooting down only three Salvadorian planes. I said: "I thought you had to shoot down six enemy planes to become an Ace". Martin replied: "Salvador did not have anymore planes to shoot down and since he was the Honduran pilot that shot down the most planes, Honduras went ahead and make him an Ace anyway".

About that time a friend came into the bar to ask me if I could loan him a pickax from my tool shed. After the friend left to get the pickax Martin asked me if I had a lot of tools loaned out to people on the island. When I said yes - he said: "You must have a death wish". Me: "What do you mean?" Martin: "You have a whole bunch of people on this island hoping you will die before they have to bring your tools back!".